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BENDERSON EYES STORE IN DOWNTOWN LOCKPORT PARKING CALLED HURDLE IN DEVELOPMENT OF OLD TWIN FAIR-SEARS BUILDING

A national retail chain could move into the old Twin Fair and Sears stores on Chestnut Street in downtown Lockport by next spring if current negotiations are consummated, a developer told the Common Council Wednesday.

Rex Burgher, vice president of development for the Benderson Development Co. of Buffalo, said the retailer "would attract a lot of business downtown" and would have 80 to 100 employees.

Burgher refused to identify the company, because the lease is not definite, but he said Benderson knows the company "very well." Benderson operates numerous shopping centers and malls, including the Factory Outlet Mall on Military Road in the Town of Niagara.

If Benderson lands the deal, Burgher said, the company would do "a major renovation" of the former Twin Fair and Sears building "to create a very good, upscale environment." Fay's Drugs, which occupies part of the otherwise vacant building, probably would remain there, he said.

The potential tenant would use about 45,000 to 50,000 square feet of space on the main floor of the building, which "would become as busy as it was when Twin Fair was there," Burgher said.

A major stumbling block, however, is uncertainty over the 200 or so parking spaces that would be needed for customers of the new store. A nearby city-owned parking lot that formerly served Twin Fair is nearly filled now with cars that have monthly parking passes.

Burgher said he would have to acquire or lease that lot from the city and would have to make all of the spaces available to his tenant instead of to monthly parkers. He proposed, however, that the city continue to maintain and light the parking lot and to remove the snow, as it does now and as it did when Twin Fair was in operation.

Council President Alfred J. Cappola, D-Seventh Ward, asked Corporation Counsel Allen D. Miskell to report on the feasibility of leasing the lot to Benderson. Miskell said he would submit that report in about a week.

"I am rather confident that we can make this deal work if we can get the parking," Burgher told the Council. "We are as bullish on Lockport as we are on the rest of Western New York."

He said the store could be in operation within four months, if the deal is completed. Benderson acquired the property last year.

Benderson also is negotiating with the City of Niagara Falls for the construction of a $111 million factory outlet mega-mall in that city's East Side.

In other business, the Council:

Accepted an $8,000 challenge grant from the state Commerce Department for improvements along the Erie Barge Canal. Local funds will have to be raised to match the grant.

Heard a delegation from the Concerned Citizens for Better Neighborhoods call for stricter enforcement of zoning laws, parking regulations and building codes "to make Lockport a better city to live in." Members of the delegation complained about housing deterioration, illegal parking, noise and drug use.

Met privately in an executive session to hear a report on contract negotiations with the city's police union.

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